Step aside JK Rowling! There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to children’s books and his name is Joe Craig, writes Neil Perry.
The 32-year-old Jewish author had sold more than 250,000 copies of his books in Britain, plus many more online and across the world since his first novel was published by Harper Collins in 2005.
Many budding authors have difficulty getting their work published, yet Craig instantly impressed Harper after sending them three chapters of his work and now only suffers from publishers not always being able to keep up with the demand his books have garnered.
Growing up in Finchley, Craig was a singer/songwriter before finding his forte as an author, when he penned the critically-acclaimed series of action thriller novels, Jimmy Coates.
Blackout, the latest instalment of the Jimmy Coates series, was released last month and is set to be the seventh and penultimate chapter of the popular books about a genetically engineered superhero.
Craig, who graduated with a philosophy degree from Cambridge University, said: “The idea for this series was a natural product of my interest in stories like The Bourne Identity and Robocop”.
Jimmy Coates is regularly described by reviewers as “The Bourne Identity for kids” and Craig himself describes the plot as “action-thrillers about a boy on the run from the secret service, battling Britain’s dictatorship, while resisting his own genetic programming that gives him the instincts and abilities of an assassin.”
The former UCS student explains: “Lots of authors want to write the next Harry Potter, but if you want to be successful, you really need to be a bit different. The fantasy genre has been done to death by now,” he explains.
Teenage boys are not regularly cited as being prolific readers of novels, but that trend is one that Craig is passionate about bucking. “Growing up, I did read, but usually only magazines and newspapers about my interests such as cricket and films.
“I am an impatient reader, so I write in order to satisfy readers like myself.”
As a result, Craig’s books are fast paced and don’t waste any time getting into the thick of the action. They have also often been credited with the ability to coax teenage boys away from their games consoles.
The talented writer comes from a strong literary background. Both his sisters are now writers and his mother is a poet. But Craig was by no means the one in the family who was destined to go on and become a writer.
“I dropped English after my GCSEs and my sisters read many novels, while I read the sports news and cricket magazines.”
But he was encouraged by his sister Miriam to read books such as The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, which inspired him to take up writing.
Now an established author himself, Craig puts his success down to a few simple basics.
“You have to just sit down and think, and I mean really think. I always carry a notepad with me, because inspiration can come at any time and its best to jot down ideas whenever they come.
“I also read a lot, although not work similar to my own. I try and write about 2,000 words per day. I prefer to get most of my work done at night, as my brain doesn’t really start functioning until after lunch.”
Aside from writing, Craig’s other passion is to offer creative writing classes for children and adults and he has been to schools around the country offering the “Joe Craig Show”.
“I go into the schools but I don’t just read plain extracts from my books, because that is horrendously dull. I engage the kids and make my sessions fun.”
Craig, who lives in Highgate with his broadcaster wife Mary-Ann Ochota, has also begun writing film scripts after he was approached by various producers over the years. These include American producer Ileen Maiseel, who was responsible for such box office hits as Inkheart and The Golden Compass.
As the finale of the Jimmy Coates series draws near, Craig reveals the big ending has been a long time in the making.
He adds: “The final book will be coming out next year and called Genesis. I’ve been keeping the final twist of the story a secret for ten years! In fact, I haven’t even told my wife what it is yet!”
Jimmy Coates: Blackout by Joe Craig is published by HarperCollins, priced £6.99, and is available now. Details: www.joecraig.co.uk